COG Wants Answers On TPA

“If we’re the ones that are going to be put on the spot, it behooves us, if we have made a decision to support a particular group, then we need to hold them accountable. We know the Warren County Commissioners have had trouble holding them accountable.”

Clarendon Borough Council President Paul Pascuzzi’s words set off a discussion during Wednesday evening’s meeting of the Warren County Council of Governments on the Warren County Commissioners’ attempt to take the Tourism Promotion Agency designation from the Warren County Visitors Bureau and give it to the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry.

To make the change, the law requires that municipalities representing 51 percent of the population of the county affirm the commissioners’ decision.

“Our municipalities had to vote one way or another. It is going to go one direction or another,” said Pascuzzi. “They need to be put on our agenda. Someone needs to be held accountable.”

The Warren County Visitors Bureau has claimed victory, citing a significant number of municipalities to ensure that the commissioners cannot get to 51 percent.

“They (WCVB) were there and told us (at municipal meetings) what they were doing and how they were going to do it,” said Pascuzzi. “(It is) time to tell us on a periodic basis” how those efforts are progressing. “I think that if part of this drama was that they did not come up with audits, now they have one.”

Revealing their decision in September, the county commissioners left the municipalities with just three months to decide. “It was basically ‘Do you support the county commissioners or not?’,” said Pascuzzi.

“We never voted,” said Sugar Grove Borough Mayor Dutch Strand.

“If it is tourism and it is tax money and the county commissioners are having trouble getting someone to be accountable then maybe it is the COG that has to help. Tourism was one of our agenda items. They (WCVB) did come pretty much every meeting then all of a sudden you didn’t hear from them.”

Pleasant Township Supervisor Arden Knapp said that representation from the WCVB stopped attending COG meetings after former Executive Director Diane Shawley left.

Pascuzzi came back to the theme of accountability. “If they’re (commissioners) not doing it, then I think we need to hold them accountable.”

“Anyone with tax money should be held accountable,” said Strand.

Pascuzzi suggested that the COG discuss the issue at its January meeting and then make a determination whether or not to invite the WCVB to future meetings.

Knapp said the commissioners should be invited to the January meeting. “I think we should tell the county commissioners we want to know what they are going to do to police this money. The two young ladies that are running that now (WCVB) are trying to do things the right way (and are) on top of things.”

COG Facilitator John Zavinski asked, “Are they auditors?”

“The question is ‘Are we better off with this tourism industry with them watching this money?’,” Pascuzzi said.

“The commissioners have evidently decided there is a better way to get a better bang for your buck,” said Strand.

County Commissioner John Bortz suggested at a meeting last week that the commissioners could withhold the bed tax dollars rather than bestowing them upon an agency that he said is not “in full compliance with how their financials should be kept.”

He did not make a formal motion, but suggested that the commissioners think about either abolishing the three percent bed tax or holding the funds in escrow.

The commissioners meet for a work session on Monday morning in advance of their Wednesday, Dec. 11 meeting.